NYSE execs staged trading-floor hoax to impress Snap CEO

By Kevin Dugan

This video wasn’t caught on Snapchat — but the New York Stock Exchange really wishes it would disappear.

One day in late 2016, executives at the Big Board ordered dozens of regulatory staffers to head down to the trading floor so it looked busier than it really was — an elaborate ruse to impress the chief executive of Snap Inc. as he weighed whether to list the vanishing-photo app maker’s shares there, The Post has learned.

NYSE brass hatched the sneaky sham, secretly caught on video by a disgusted employee, after Snap CEO Evan Spiegel remarked during a Nov. 18, 2016, tour of the exchange’s historic building at 11 Wall St. that the trading floor looked empty, according to a source.

In response, Thomas Farley, then the president of the exchange, promptly ordered regulatory officials to fill it up, insiders said.

Spiegel never made his way to the floor, according to the company and sources, and it’s not clear whether he glimpsed the phony show from a visitors gallery before leaving the building. But about two months later, Snap decided to take its $3 billion IPO to NYSE instead of archrival Nasdaq.

Farley, who left NYSE earlier this year, disputed The Post’s version of events on the Snap IPO.

“Evan never toured NYSE nor set foot on trading floor prior to IPO,” Farley insisted in an email, referring to Spiegel.

However, Josh King, a spokesman for NYSE’s parent company, Intercontinental Exchange, known as ICE, confirmed to The Post that Spiegel in fact “was in the building,” adding, “He came up for a meeting and left.”

Within minutes of Farley’s order, sources said, NYSE’s internal regulators — who are supposed to police the exchange, not help it win business — received an email from an assistant to Anthony Albanese, NYSE’s chief regulatory officer.

The message: Albanese wants you down on the trading floor.

Between 50 and 70 regulators then stopped their work and took two elevators from the 20th and 21st floors down to the trading floor, according to two sources.

NYSE spokeswoman Kristen Kaus didn’t respond to questions about the email or why regulators went down to the floor that day. Snap didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The video of the hoax, exclusively obtained by The Post, reveals a slew of NYSE regulators including Albanese on the trading floor. But instead of shouting, shoving and barking into phones, the officials were standing around chatting in a scene that looked more like a cocktail party.

“It wasn’t the right way to do anything,” one person who was told to go down to the floor that day told The Post.

“[The regulators] are so captive, and they’re the ones who are supposed to be monitoring the New York Stock Exchange,” a former employee told The Post.

NYSE has come under fire this year for playing fast and loose with its own rules, paying a $14 million fine in March for unfair practices. Last week, The Post exclusively reported that NYSE earlier this month broke its own rules to allow a Morgan Stanley trader to execute a series of transactions for eight minutes after the closing bell.

The recent incidents, critics say, are part of a broader cultural shift at the 226-year-old exchange since ICE bought it in 2013. While NYSE had a roughly $85 million oversight contract with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or FINRA, through 2015, the exchange brought much of that work in-house starting in 2016, according to insiders.

That has led to a culture in which lines get blurred and deals are cut to pad ICE’s bottom line — and can verge on fraud, they said.

“That building was built on ‘Your word is your bond,’ and you take that and make a mockery of it,” one former worker fumed. “There are more deals in there than Kmart.”

It’s unclear what consequences NYSE could face — but it might have to give up some of its self-oversight.

“I don’t think anyone’s going to suggest that you give this monitoring responsibility back to the exchange, because they’re not going to do it very faithfully,” said John Coffee, a Columbia law school professor and former member of NYSE’s legal advisory board.

“If anything, I think this means they should give more responsibility to FINRA,” he added.

A NYSE executive told The Post that the exchange has ended the practice of telling regulators to go down to the floor for specific events. At the same time, NYSE executives tried to play down the Snap sideshow, insisting that employees are routinely encouraged to come to the floor to see business moguls and celebrities, for example.

“Many times I encouraged NYSE employees to join in the fun on the floor and maybe including snap ipo although i dont have specific memory,” Farley wrote in a loosely punctuated email. “Def not specific to the reg team and I never would have asked only the reg team.”

But that wasn’t how employees saw it, according to interviews.

“If the person you’re regulating controls your movement, what would that tell you?” one ex-employee asked. “That would tell me that’s my boss.”